Commodity Conversations Weekly Press Summary

Initial estimates by the World Trade Organization (WTO) suggest that global trade in goods dropped by 19% in the second quarter due to the coronavirus. This is a record drop but much better than the worst case scenario of a 32% fall which had been touted back in April. The WTO director explained that governments were faster to intervene than during the 2008 crisis, notably by encouraging consumer spending. He is worried, however, that a tendency towards protectionism, combined with a possible second wave of the virus, could slow the recovery in global trade. 

Cargill’s CEO expressed concerns after Brazilian government officials mocked and criticised China. China has bought more Brazilian soybean than expected this year, he explained, saying it was risky to upset buyers. The US administration, meanwhile, continues to send conflicting messages about the state of its trade deal with China. Some officials were heard saying that the deal was over, something which was denied later on. In any case, analysts say that we will only really know in the last quarter of the year when China will buy the bulk of US goods and after the US elections. 

Both the US and Brazil have complained to the WTO about Thailand’s intention to ban paraquat pesticide and chlorpyrifos insecticide, including in imported food. If the proposal goes ahead, Thailand would have one of the strictest policies around, as others such as the EU and China still allow some residue in imports despite having banned these chemicals. Thailand is a major market for wheat and soy imports from the US and Brazil, both of which would be significantly impacted as a result. Farmers in Thailand aren’t happy about this either, as they argue that the alternatives are much worse for the environment. 

Food sustainability is a major concern for the world’s most “disruptive” companies, according to a list by CNBC aggregating 50 companies that attracted a combined USD 74 billion in venture capital. One of the companies listed is Apeel, which gained attention for attracting funding from celebrities and is focusing on food waste, blamed for 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The company created an edible film that can be applied on fruits and vegetables to double their life span without refrigeration. 

Another company in the CNBC list is the plant-based meat company Impossible Foods whose reach is expected to grow significantly with Starbucks launching an Impossible Breakfast Sandwich across the US. Impossible Foods is working to be viewed as “better meat” and not an alternative product, the CEO explained. He said that 90% of their consumers are meat eaters and that the coronavirus-linked meat shortages helped push consumers to their products. 

Danone North America is taking it one step further and looking at how to enhance its range of plant-based food and drinks with health properties. It has tied up with Brightseed to use artificial intelligence to “analyse plants at the molecular level in order to understand the specific roles that nutrients play in the proper functioning of our bodies.”

Technological advances are also key in the meat sector where ADM noted that spicy flavours are becoming increasingly popular among meat eaters. One of the group’s food scientists noted that “The consumer palate for spice is also becoming much more nuanced with increasing desire for specific pepper varieties and hyper-local regional spices.” The group is working on developing the right ingredients for marinades to capture all the flavours as well as physical sensations. 

Cargill launched fully traceable chicken in China using blockchain technology. Consumers can scan the QR code to see which farm it came from. “This is chicken 2.0,” Cargill said. Otherwise, the group is investing EUR 3.5 million to produce more gourmet chocolate in Belgium. It is also setting up a chocolate production plant in India, the group’s first chocolate production unit in Asia, to capture the growing demand in the region. 

Nestle’s KitKat announced it would stop buying cocoa certified by Fairtrade and would focus instead on the Rainforest Alliance as it “harmonises [its] certification for sustainable sourcing internationally.” A company official said they would help Fairtrade cocoa farmers to get certified with Rainforest Alliance so that they can continue to get the premium. 

In Australia, Nestle said it would change the names of RedSkins and Chicos sweets as part of an industry wide movement to rebrand products viewed to have racist stereotypes. As such, Pepsi’s Quaker Oats will be rebranding its century old Aunt Jemima line, the same goes for Mars’ Uncle Ben’s rice and Dreyer’s will rename its Eskimo Pie.  

This summary was produced by ECRUU

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